Cornelius (Acts 10) is an interesting figure in scripture and does great harm to the common religious notions of today. If contemporary theology were true, Cornelius would have been a condemned man, void of the Holy Spirit, an alien to God and reprobate, never having heard the preached gospel (Romans 3).
Yet notice how the author Luke, through the Spirit, describes him in verse 2: “A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.”
Cornelius feared God. When he prayed, God answered.
Now notice how Peter described those who fear God in verse 35: “…in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”
Did you catch it?
Cornelius feared God. All who fear God are accepted with God. Peter just informed us that Cornelius was accepted in the beloved (Eph 1) despite being unevangelized. To say it a different way, Cornelius was no longer “dead in trespasses and sins” but was a new creature in Christ Jesus. Cornelius had been “cleansed” by God (Acts 10:15).
The question then arises: how can an outsider to the church who is ignorant of gospel knowledge be born again? Simple: The Spirit of God moves as does the wind in the new birth. See John 3:8. Regeneration is a sovereign act of God without the aid of man.
Now notice this pattern all throughout Acts. The Jews in Acts 2 who received the gospel were “devout” and pricked in their softened hearts. The eunuch in Acts 8 was seeking information about the subject of Isaiah 53. Lydia was going to pray in Acts 16. The Corinthians who received Paul’s preaching in Acts 18 did so because they were already God’s people. Over and over again, people who “were ordained to eternal life” believed.
Simply put, salvation is of the Lord. Before my preaching can affect a man, God’s grace must change a man.
This is an hard saying, who can hear it? He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Originally published December 2015